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Toe To Toe

March 7, 2007

Yesterday morning, as I was leaving Rhythm & Motion Dance Center after a dance class, a curious flier caught my eye. On the front of the flier, two figures -- a seven-foot-plus basketball player wearing yellow Cal Berkeley basketball gear and a big 'fro and a five-foot-maybe-less dancer in a red leotard and black dance skirt -- are leaning against each other, the basketball player looking down at the dancer with a grin on his face and his hands on his hips, and the dancer looking up at him, likewise smiling, with her forearms placed against the basketball player's expansive chest.

It's an eye-catching image, alright. But the event that it advertises is even more interesting. On the evening of April 5th, as the back of the flier explains, "Top Cal athletes compete against some of the Bay Area's hottest dancers in a series of entertaining tests of skill, strength, and agility." I wonder what it all entails? Dancing and basketball are both physical activities alright. Both acquire skill, strength, and agility, but they're "played" along very different lines.

The event is meant to be a bit of fun more than anything else -- it's a fund raiser for ODC Dance Commons, the umbrella organization of which my dance school, Rhythm & Motion, is a part. But the premise for the event is a strange one. I wonder what criteria the judges will use to compare and adjudicate the competitors' skills? Will dancers pirouette their way to the key, fouette the ball into the net and take out their opponent with an arabesque to the chops? Will the basketball players dance an Irish jig ten feet in the air? And while it's possible to count the number off balls in the hoop, judging the merits of a jig, no matter how high it's danced, is not as straightforward.

In any case, "Toe to Toe - Cal vs. ODC" should make for an entertaining event. Athletes "competing" in the event include Tony LaRussa, Ronnie Lott, Jonny Moseley, Harris Barton, and Willie Mays. I don't know much about these people though Willie Mays is an eccentric choice. The dance side seems even more bizarre. Alongside Joanna Berman, Joe Goode, Robert Moses, KT Nelson, and Kimi Okada, there'll be Eleanor Coppola (Francis Ford's wife -- I had no idea she could dance though some of her "twig" collages grace the walls at ODC Commons,) Geoff Hoyle (a very physical clown, acrobat, and one-man-theatre-band, but can he dance?) and Bill Irwin (who's in town playing George in the ex-Broadway production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf -- unless it's not that Bill Irwin but another guy with the same name.)

I'm thinking of asking to join the judging panel. Doesn't look like they have any critics on it so far. Sometimes, people like us can be useful. Whatever happens, I plan to be there.



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